We can and must do better
I may be wrong but I sense at least in myself that a writer has a compelling beginning. Mine was in the home of my parents, in the schools of my youth, in the service forming a worldview.
In her parenting, my mother was fond of paraphrasing the counsel of the Scottish poet Robert Burns: “Oh the gift to gie us (what a gift it would be) to see ourselves as others see us.”
One reference has Burns’ original as “O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us/ To see oursels as ithers see us! / It wad frae mony a blunder free us,/ An’ foolish notion: / What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us, / An’ ev’n devotion!” and its Standard English translation as: And would some Power the small gift give us / To see ourselves as others see us! / It would from many a blunder free us,/ And foolish notion: / What airs in dress and gait would leave us,/ And even devotion!
This is the final stanza of Burns’ poem “To a Louse”. He composed it after seeing a woman in church, dressed to the nines and, unbeknownst to her, further adorned with a parasite in her hair. One analysis calls the poem a reflection “that, to a louse, we are all equal prey and would be disabused of our pretensions if we were to see ourselves through each others’ eyes.” The poet may have been also “musing to himself on how horrified and humbled the pious would be if aware of harboring in the hair a common parasite.”
In America, long before we fell in love with a technology that executes wars by remote control, before patriot became synonymous with commerce, careless consumption and indifference, we used to embrace with pride our beloved “Old Glory.” Now, and for a long time, this flag of brilliant colors and stars and stripes we have desecrated with the blood of nations. This is not blood spilled in genuine defense of our homeland — there is not real threat to the leading nuclear powered United States of America. The stain on our flag and so our nation is the stain of unconscionable cruelty perpetrated without provocation on lands and peoples throughout the world, and including on U.S. soldiers without life options who are ordered to die for delusional ideology, political gain, and empire. Some of us are ashamed, saddened and outraged by the endless, unconscionable bloodletting at home and across the world in the name of our beloved, now tainted “Old Glory.” And it matters how the world sees us.
My mother believed, as do I, that once we are enlightened as to how others see us, we will...